Hello, autumn

And here is the end of September. Minnesota is at it’s best right now with beautiful fields of green and gold, wineries and apple orchards, sleepy lakes, trees adding more and more autumn colors every day. Crips mornings and evenings are cozy, wrapped up in a blanket or soft sweater, and days are sunny and still feel a bit like summer.  We took a short trip to Saint Croix valley the other week end spent a night and a lazy morning watching the river go by carrying away hustle and bustle of first busy school weeks. St.Croix river inn sets romantic mood for the week end in a beautiful nature setting, kayaking and hiking, several apple orchards and wineries nearby, like Chateau Saint Croix or Dancing Dragonfly.

Perfect days to savor colors, light, sun and warmth, making warm apple cider and scones. I am looking forward to more changing colors, new long books, colder days and autumn spices in my coffee.

“Open your eyes…and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
― Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See

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Check into St.Croix River Inn

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at the apple orchard – find a needle in a haystack

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visit Chateau St.Croix

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Making these scones from apples picked at the orchard

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drink apple sider – this is a swoony recipe

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add cinnamon and nutmeg to my coffee

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Denim jacket

I love reading latest fashion blog posts about anything denim. Boyfriend baggy jeans or jeans perfectly torn on the knees. There are high wasted denim skirts or flared jeans in 70s style that are very feminine and cool. I am in total agreement – denim items are very versatile and stylish pieces of wardrobe. Ever had a moment in your closet thinking “I have nothing to wear”? My answer is usually jeans and a t-shirt. Or a white shirt for classic and more dressed up look.

And my all times favorite denim item is a denim jacket. Blue or black. Timeless, because the more you wear it the better it looks. I take it on my travels, it became my “lucky charm” and brings back great memories. With colder fall days coming up, I am reaching out for denim jacket mostly every day and love how edgy it looks with anything – dresses, jeans any color, pants or skirts. Ways to wear denim jacket are endless, it is perfect piece for a capsule wardrobe – inspiring images prove it.

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Attention to blue worn out denim, add a pair of moccasins or loafers and white tank for relaxed simplicity

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From Amsterdam based Denham Jean maker, throw a breton stripe t-shirt under and furry vest over denim jacket!

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Layers of cozy wool with faded blue denim is making upcoming cold days feel warmer

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Preppy isn’t boring with great shade of blue denim and buttoned up collared white shirt.

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Sleeves come off – denim vest adds a sporty detail to an outfit. Great look with white sneakers and ripped jeans.

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My favorite jacket – dressed up with leather sleeves and silk blouse for a trip to Spain. Or dressed down with favorite Nikes to meet friendly roos in Australia.

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Edgy and provocative, denim jacket can be it all.

Denimimages from pinterest.com, styleandminimalism.com, theyallhateus.com and my own

 

Travel inspired wish list – Lakeside Living

When I see these photos, I can only dream of living on a lake. Waking up to the sound of the waves, walking to the boat dock with a cup of coffee in my hand, seeing sunrise and watching yachts spreading their sails in blue sky, gliding on glistening lake water. Spending long summer days with children on a beach where all we’d need is great beach bag and towels, cool t-shirts and breezy summer dresses to grab a glass of wine with friends in the evening watching sunset.

As I spent many days and evenings on our wonderful lake Minnetonka, I put this “lakeside living” post inspired by amazing Swedish design magazine “Skona Hem” and also our trip to Stockholm and Archipelago. I couldn’t get enough of simplicity and comfort, clean lines, easy color pallette, perfect quality and cool modern design.  Blue, white, linen and grey are beautiful and so easy on the eyes and mix in perfectly with wonderful views around.

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Ocean House (oceanhouse.se) – East USA meets West Sweden in easy to love styles.

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Visit Svenskt Tenn for wonderful design ideas, inspiration and beautiful items

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Beautiful , simple and stylish forget-me-not (Rostrand mon-amie) swedish design from Rostrand
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Light the night with these candles (also free of harmful chemicals) I love their simple attractive design.

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Perfect summer town by the lake

Do you know that feeling when you arrive in some warm vacation destination, sun is so bright that you instantly put on sunglasses, excited to see tan, happy, smiling people wearing sandals, flip-flops and straw hats, taking time to enjoy ice-cream or cold beverage on a hot day. Kids run off to build sand castles or jump into the water.

I always get this feeling of “being on the island time” as soon as I drive into Excelsior city in summer. Life is good in this neighborhood. Excelsior is a perfect Minnesota summer town by the lake, that has just the right number of shops and restaurants, local farmers market, kids playground and couple of beaches paired with the best ice-cream and amazing lake views all around. It is breezy and nonchalant. It is easy to spend a day or a week just letting time go by and savoring every moment of Minnesota precious summer. My favorite moments? Here we go:

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Watching the boats sail or slowly float by the shore

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Explore and find pretty quiet spots around the lake

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Fun things don’t come from comfort places :).

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Spending time with a friend

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Kick your shoes off…go on a swing and hear children laughter at playground

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Girls polka-dot bikini time…

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I tried all Sebastien Joe’s ice-cream flavors during summer but my vote goes to raspberry chocolate.

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Check out local unique stores around the city

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Enjoy dinner with local ingredients at Victor on the water.

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Watch the magic sunset

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Summer in Stockholm

When winter is long and cold, just like in Minnesota, summer brings so much joy and celebration. And Sweds, just like Minnesotans are  having picnics in the parks, biking, swimming, spending week-ends at their summer lake cabins – enjoying every moment of sunshine. Summer happiness is everywhere : on a boat ride to Archipelago beautiful lake islands, in the smiles of happy children riding carousels at Skansen open air museum or playing at Astrid Lindgren’s books theme fairytale park. It is on a gorgeous Strandvagen boardwalk stroll with ice-cream in hand, admiring beautiful views of lake Malaren and Stockholm’s skyline of copper spires, bell towers and roofs.

Outdoor cafes and restaurants are filled with friends and families enjoying their traditional Swedish “fika”, that is coffee and cardamon/cinnamon bun or other sweets. And even Scandinavian design that I expected to be only monochrome, minimalistic palette of earth tones, becomes alive and beautifully inspired by summer too,  bursting in bright colors and flowers of Josef Frank textiles at Svenskt Tenn. So what’s happening on a great day of summer in Stockholm?

What can be better than breeze in your hair and sun on your face, watching boats passing by on board of Stromma’s Ostana, built in 1906. Cruising Archipelago islands and seeing Swedish classic summer cabins.

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IMG_4215IMG_8346Bright colors and flower details at Svenskt Tenn’s Josef Frank show room

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IMG_4478Get breakfast, lunch or enjoy Swedish fika at colorful and cool Urban Deli and then play with kids in the next door park like one of local Sodermalm neighborhood families.

urbandeliIMG_4228IMG_0040Spend afternoon at amazingly cool Fotografiska museum.

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IMG_4276Get on a carousel at Skansen open air museum.

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Enjoy dinner with a lake view at  Veranda for classic Smorgasbrod – buffet selection of famous Swedish cold and hot dishes

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Walk around Gamla Stan

One of great travel experiences in european cities is visiting their old medieval towns. Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm, goes back to 13 century and definitely one of most charming places I visited. Best part is wandering away from touristy main street and losing yourself for couple hours in tiny alleys and cobblestone streets, admiring beautiful pastel colored buildings, pencil lined windows, unique Swedish crafts and details, then finding unexpected little antique shops and cafes tucked away on quaint romantic squares. It felt like being inside of fairytale book pages, back in time. Let’s go for a late afternoon walk around Gamla Stan with me and my camera, that definitely loved this place…

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Stopping by at Hairy Pig, established in 1490, for beer and great charcuterie.

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After dark, Gamla Stan is even more charming..

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Favorite wineries in Sonoma county

I came up with this post while working on itinerary for my friend who is visiting California soon. End of summer and fall is such an amazing time to visit wine counties. Sun is still hot and bright, but nights are cooler and air is crispier.  Everyone chooses different wine region. My choice was Sonoma – it is known for “mom and pop” wineries with great history and intimate setting. It is close to Pacific coast I love – the rugged and beautifully wild – it gives me this amazing feeling of freedom.  We drove picturesque Pacific Highway 1  from San Francisco and admired amazing ocean and cliff views, feeling like in a car commercial. Spent a night in Bodega Bay, and in the morning went for a kite running on a windy beach (read about it here), then drove inland – from colder grey and brown, cloudy, filled with eucalyptus and ocean smells  – to sunlit hills and open yellow-green prairies of Sonoma wine land that really reminded me of Tuscany.

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I love anything bubbly 🙂 Sparkling wine, champagne, prosecco, cava are all in one big happy family for me. Visit to gorgeous Korbel winery was definitely on the top of my itinerary. Great tour of the winery, interesting movie about making of “California champagne” and pretty lunch setting in the patio.

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Not far from Guerneville where Korbel is located, there is a great winery that started back in 1905, tasting room is captivating, featuring photos of winery from very old days. And their famous “Thousand flowers” is perfect California wine – summery and pretty.

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Continuing on wine road…Next on my list is Cline winery. Their Rhone blend “Cashmere” is one of my favorites, warming me up in soft and delicious notes of cherries and chocolate during colder nights in Minnesota. Winery has beautiful grounds, offers great tour telling the story of Valeriano Jacuzzi (one of brothers of famous family who pioneered water pumps) and his grandson, Fred Cline who started the vineyard.

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I have same dreamy face expression on my face after a glass of Cashmere or their Zinfandel as this handsome dude 🙂

And across the road from Cline is stunning Jacuzzi winery with it’s gorgeous Tuscan villa and fountains, gardens, olive trees and roses.

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I saved the best for the last…At Benziger winery with their rich delicious wines – hop on their tram for the tour around estate, see green lush rolling hills in the heart of Sonoma county and hear about their biodynamic practices. The landscaping on Benziger grounds is not just perfectly designed, it is also a showcase for how plants and flowers aid in their farming.  I discovered their cool blog featuring stories about winemaking and great recipes and wine pairings – read more at Benziger blog and schedule the behind the scenes tour.

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Favorite wineries in Sonoma county

To discover your future favorite wineries in Sonoma county or for more planning, check http://www.wineroad.com.

Find more about my California experiences here.

Traveling with kids to London

I love traveling with kids, they seem to inherit our family DNA of loving to explore new places. They deal with overnight flights, jet lag, trains and transitions easy. That, of course, with the help of Apple technology “i-parenting” as I call it, and regular snacks (rule number one – never have any family member hungry when traveling). How to organize trip with kids in one carry-one and a duffel beg for iPads and books and snacks is another story. But the less the better and my own energy and excitement seem to feed to them, so when we get on plane, everyone is awaiting new adventures and very excited about seeing new places. I hope I can keep it this way, because one of my goals is to raise kids that are comfortable in this world that becomes more and more global.  When planning our trips, anticipation and stories about what we are going to do is important. Like for latest London trip, Harry Potter was really the reason to go to London and added bonus of mummies at British museum and Paddington bear search at the station were instant success.

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I love seeing the world through my children eyes. I love that often some things turn out so much better when traveling with them. Tower of London became even more exciting adventure (how cute is that to see these two in a royal animals cage?) 😉 Or hear my daughter stories of princess and princes when seeing Royal jewels.

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Afternoon tea is a special experience for kids. We picked a beautiful, eclectic, vibrant, colorful and fun Soho hotel tearoom that both kids enjoyed so much. While my daughter never passes on opportunity to have hot chocolate – my son was trying traditional tea with milk.

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I would probably never venture out to see how Harry Potter movie was made. But it was very unique and excitement in my son’s eyes from seeing everything he read about many times was the best prize. Studios are not very close to Central London and I booked tickets ahead online. It takes lots of time in traffic to get anywhere in Central london by taxi, so tube with connection to local train in Euston station is the best way to get there. Tour takes about 3 hours, but it is not exactly a guided tour all the time, there is free time to explore, drink butter beer and take fun photos at photo booths.

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There is another great secret of happy sightseeing day with children, becides good breakfast and staying hydrated… the “sweet” secret. Ice-cream or croissants or another pastry while parents enjoy couple shots of espresso. Gelato Mio on Holland Avenue has best pistachio ice-cream I had since visit to Florence. Patteserie Valerie is amazing, Melt is perfect and cupcakes at Hummingbird bakery are delicious.

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On my trips, again thanks to my kids – I am always looking for great parks to unwind and have them run around and get fresh air. Holland park is a delight. There is a beautiful Kyoto garden where kids can run around the pond and stepping stones near a waterfall.

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And of course, seeing iconic sights and sharing history of London together is unforgettable.

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Happy in Notting Hill

I watched Notting Hill movie too many times. And my experience of that area of London turned out to be exactly what I expected – romantic and happy. These are always good itinerary items on my travel list 🙂

I loved the colors. Victorian homes are painted in romantic pastel shades of soft pink and apricot, baby blue and lavender, blush and ivory.

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New Angel Notting Hill – such lovely, top notch yet a very relaxing dinner.  And speaking of colors again… Starting with purple roses on the table and then continuing with colorful feast for the eyes (and amazing tastes) during Chelsea flower show menu. Desert was so pretty I didn’t want to ruin it 🙂

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Continuing yummy topic on Notting Hill food scene.. 202 is great for a brunch. The place is so modern, airy and bright (my obsessive color palette is here again:)), great photography on the walls, fashion books and magazines on shelves create buzzy feel. There is a cool trendy shop downstairs too. And healthy 202 breakfast is my favorite combination of spinach, eggs and avocado.

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Finding great chocolate and desert places on my trips is essential. Rainbow of macarons in amazing Melt and Hummingbird bakery butterfly cupcakes are fitting to my happy Notting Hill theme.

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Notting Hill is a happening place from quiet beautiful streets around Westbourne Grove, featuring cool cafes , restaurants and great shopping to grand finale of bright colors at Portobello Road ( with bright blue travel bookstore where Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts in the Notting Hill movie) I heard that store doesn’t really exist anymore, but I borrowed a picture from Pinterest. Ok, and now I am off to watch that movie again.

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images except this book store are from my iPhone

Elegant London

Victorian townhomes on quiet streets leading to Holland Park are stunning. I loved those white gorgeous facades with beautiful iron wrought porches. Very elegant and sophisticated. Inspired by white facades and looking for more beautiful white details, walk continues down Holland Park street into charming park. Then around Kensington into the Kensington Palace garden.

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Nearby, tucked near quiet Kensington streets there is tranquil Kensington Palace and Garden. An elegant Orangery, or as my daughter called it “princess’s cafe” is truly special and sophisticated yet relaxed, located right near historic Royal residence. White lilies, elegant white napkins and dainty china, white structural interior…more  and more white details for me to be obsessed with.

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Elegant London

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